Awakening to Reiki Abuse: #MeTooReiki

Reiki abuse. It’s something no one wants to talk about until it’s too late. Let’s change that.

In the U.K in 2013, a Reiki professional was jailed for sexually abusing Reiki clients. While that’s the only public notice of Reiki abuse I’ve found, people have been privately sharing painful stories of abusive treatment by Reiki professionals for many years.

My response is always the same. I’m deeply sorry for the pain they are experiencing, and I encourage them to get the support they need to heal.

I also explain what the public doesn’t know: there are no agreed-upon standards for Reiki practice or training and no professional accountability. In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to set up as a Reiki professional with no professional training or experience.

I encourage the person to practice self-Reiki if they’ve been trained, or to find a responsible teacher to learn Reiki self-practice. I help them compensate for the lack of Reiki professional standards by offering guidelines for choosing a class that is a good fit for them.

Abusers among us

Everyone is vulnerable when reaching out for help. That vulnerability might be especially acute for those seeking help from a spiritual or health professional.

The Reiki abuse stories shared with me mostly involve psychospiritual manipulation, Reiki professionals taking advantage of the vulnerability of someone who came to them for healing and/or training.

How can it be?

Clearly there’s no excusing abuse.

That said, if we look at the situation honestly, it’s not surprising abuse happens in the Reiki community. Although the impulse to protect those in need seems deeply ingrained in most people, that’s not true of everyone. Even stringent medical licensing doesn’t protect the public from those determined to use their position to exploit others.

Without standards for Reiki practice or training, anyone can set up as a Reiki professional without investing in training, mentoring or professional supervision. People can present themselves as Reiki professionals without learning how to create and maintain an ethical therapeutic relationship.

It doesn’t occur to many Reiki professionals to stop and contemplate, what is my responsibility to people who come to me for help?

Few Reiki professionals take the time to first create the foundation of consistent daily self practice. They take on the responsibility of healing others without an on-going commitment to self-healing. While it’s no guarantee, the commitment to daily self practice helps us stay grounded and behave ethically.

Looking at the broader picture, we live in a spiritually naive, spiritually illiterate culture. People are confused about what “spiritual” means, and people in various spiritual communities struggle to understand what power is appropriate to give a spiritual teacher. Students don’t realize going beyond your boundaries is a transformation that can happen organically from within when you commit to daily practice.

Some teachers assume parental or even dictatorial roles and profess the need for tough love. They think clients have to be pushed to heal. As if you could push the river.

Developing agency

As with all spiritual practice, Reiki practice develops your sense of agency. That’s true whether you receive treatment or practice self Reiki.

Spiritual practice opens our inner awareness, giving us a broader perspective. A life that is overwhelming when lived at the surface feels more possible when experienced from our core.

Reiki practice unfolds the appreciation that no one controls everything. While we might find ourselves in difficult situations or challenging life circumstances, we are not helpless; our choices always matter.

Perhaps you’ve seen that healthy sense of self arise in you or a client, that confidence that says, “I can work with this; I can find my way.” People who come to Reiki overwhelmed by a medical diagnosis begin to feel hopeful that they can overcome the challenges they face.

And it’s not a blind faith hopefulness that distorts the very real limitations they’re addressing. Not at all. The sense of hopefulness Reiki practice brings leads people to be more attentive to their inner cues and more motivated to take better care of themselves.

That’s why Reiki self practice is particularly well suited to people who have been victimized. When victims are approached with the respect they and all people deserve, Reiki practice can be an invaluable cornerstone of their healing because it helps them grow from within at their own pace.

That’s what I’ve seen when offering Reiki demonstrations to victims support groups and what I’ve heard from colleagues who have done the same.

Reiki can heal the damage from abuse

If you’ve been abused, you know how hard it is to trust enough to let someone else touch you. The ability to self practice removes that concern.

Whether you self practice or receive treatment from someone else, Reiki practice opens an inner spaciousness in which you feel better, not so pressured.

And when we feel better, we function better, we think more clearly, and we make better choices.

Of course, if you’ve been abused by a Reiki professional or teacher, it might be hard for you to consider Reiki practice. I encourage you to separate Reiki practice from your Reiki abuser. Place your hands on yourself and notice your physiologic response. Feel your breath naturally and spontaneously open. Bask in the safety of the moment.

What to watch for as a client or student

Whether you are looking for a Reiki professional to offer you treatment or a Reiki master teacher to train you to practice, choose your Reiki professional or teacher with great care. This is a Buyer Beware market.

There are many fine Reiki professionals. Take the time needed to find one that is a good fit for your needs.

Your teacher’s responsibility is to support you in making your own choices, not to make them for you. Run from a teacher who isolates students and tries to override your personal will.

If the teacher manipulates or even pushes you with too much enthusiasm to go past your understanding of your boundaries, that teacher might be engaging in power play.

Even if he or she wants to help, being a Reiki bully isn’t helpful.

Reiki practice evokes a person’s self-healing. We cannot force people to heal or to learn.

Look for a teacher who is in service and encourages students to develop agency.

What to watch for as a professional

Overbearing teachers or practitioners are unlikely to see themselves as Reiki bullies. You don’t have to be a full blown Reiki abuser to be causing pain.

As Reiki professionals, we straddle the fields of spirituality and health care. Becoming a professional healthcare provider requires a period of mentoring and supervision. Healthcare professionals are required to take continuing education to maintain their licenses.

There are no Reiki licenses that hold us to ethical professional standards. It’s up to us to engage in continual self inventory, reflection and inquiry to keep improving.

Take an honest look at your clinical skills, how you interact with your clients/students. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you think it’s your job to tell them what to do or do you support them in making their own choices and finding their own healing path?
  • Do you push students to meet your standards or help them develop their own meaningful standards?
  • Do you like having people dependent on you, or do you seek to strengthen your students’ self agency, engaging them to make choices at every juncture?

Healing from Reiki abuse

Here are my suggestions for anyone healing from Reiki abuse or any abuse:

  • Don’t give up;
  • Defy your circumstances;
  • Believe in yourself;
  • Commit to a daily spiritual practice to help you discover your true worth and live your life from your wholeness and wellness.

Reiki harm reduction

Everyone has his/her own unique healing process.

If you feel that sharing your story — without naming names — would be healing for you, you are welcome to do so in a comment below. Your story educates others how abuse can happen. That might help people recognize potentially dangerous situations and make healthier choices.

If you share your story, please avoid giving names or any identifying details. This will not be helpful if it devolves into vigilanteism.

My goal is to help people who have been victimized to find healing and to help prevent abuse by educating others what to watch for.

So please, if you feel it would help you, tell the story that is yours to tell without incriminating others. While it might be valuable at some point to confront your abuser, this is simply not the place for that confrontation.

We will give anyone who wants to share here the space to do so without imposing our comments. Please do not reply or comment on anyone else’s story; just tell your own, if you feel drawn to do so.

________________

The Reiki & Medicine Intensive  and Reiki Professional Academy help refine your skills and grow as a Reiki professional. 

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27 thoughts on “Awakening to Reiki Abuse: #MeTooReiki”

  1. My boyfriend was excited to introduce me to his energy healer/masseuse, and was upfront about the fact that (after several sessions as her client) they’d hung out a handful of times as friends, and had eventually gone on a date together. He reflected and spoke with his therapist, who cautioned him that he might just like how the focused and gentle attention made him feel, and that perhaps they were not so compatible as partners. Things never went anywhere physically, and I decided I felt comfortable seeing her for a massage and energy work myself. The first time, when she greeted me she said “oh…. so you know Darren…. how’s that going?” I excitedly told her he’s one of my favorite people, and that I felt so lucky to have met him. She sighed heavily and responded with “Yeah…. he’s a…[sigh] a really great guy.” I chose to overlook this and convinced myself that any concerns were just in my own head.

    Several months later we both saw her for individual energy healing sessions. I’m actually fairly tuned into people’s emotions and unspoken issues, to a sometimes disturbing degree, but I try to view it as a helpful tool rather than an emotional burden. Anyway, I went first, and I tried to relax. As I did so, I felt I started seeing as much into her as she was into me. I tried to feel forgiving of my initial mistrust, and just as I started to soften I got an overwhelming sense of jealousy and wistfulness, as if her own relationship was unstable, and she was quite envious of mine. My boyfriend went right after for his session. He told me that she kept repeating that she couldn’t “find” his energy, and that he was blocked by thoughts of me and my issues, at which point he began to cry.

    The following day, she messaged him saying she couldn’t do energy work or massage for me for the foreseeable future, and that the energy I was carrying with me was too intense and negative for her to have in her life. She also said that her boyfriend had just dumped her, and solicited words of consolation from Darren.

    I find this all extremely disturbing and feel like it’s a grave misuse of the trust that is built during energy healing and therapeutic massage. What do you think? Am I overreacting by feeling uncomfortable with this woman being in our lives in any capacity?

    1. Just so there’s no confusion, I’d like to start by clarifying that this article is specifically about Reiki practice rather than energy work.
      Why don’t you trust your instincts, Bella? As you’ve related the story, her behavior seems unprofessional. Did either of you ever ask her how she trained to be a professional? If you live where there is licensing for massage, you have the option to lodge a complaint.

  2. Thank you for opening up this dialogue. With the continued mainstreaming of Reiki and sometimes too easy access to certification and lack of time given to developing ones own personal practice, this is an important discussion to have. With Reiki Practitioners working in many settings including hospitals, therapists offices, educational settings , wellness programs etc, we find as a condition of employment taking that walk to the Human Resources Dept and having this very discussion. It is not optional but mandatory. This is usually accompanied by a discussion, manual, power point and signed contract regarding ethical practice/standards for yourself and those you will interact with. This has never made me feel uneasy. I believe having this discussion is beneficial to the Reiki community and is in no way detrimental. Whether in private or professional practice it is inspiring to know we can connect with a larger community that has an open forum where subjects like this are not taboo or untouchable but are acknowledged Leadership requires saying uncomfortable things for the greater good.

  3. I don’t think it’s a good idea to generalize and make a metoo movement out if it in regards to field of Reiki. Most often then not people don’t think of sexually abusing any client in system of Reiki. Most people come here to help. As far as mental etc abuse it also depends on the person in receiving end how they take it. We all have a choice.

    People take advantage of others who are vulnerable in every field like offices for number of reasons . That doesn’t mean it’s a metoo movement.

    Sorry but I don’t seem to digest this.

    Thanks
    Percy

    1. It’s true in every field that most people aren’t abused, but that doesn’t really help people who are, does it?

      I’m not trying to create a movement but rather to extend the awareness of abuse to our field, because it is happening here. It’s a matter of raising awareness in the public, that they need to choose Reiki professionals carefully.

      It’s also a matter or raising awareness among Reiki professionals. Many have no training regarding clinical practice. They don’t respect the power differential of a therapeutic relationship and cause harm to clients. Whether intentional or not, it is nonetheless a problem.

  4. Denise Fletcher

    I was subjected to Reiki sexual abuse over the phone a few years ago. Resultee in PTSD. It shook my trust in Reiki. She was on FB. I don’t remember her name. It was so creepy & intrusive. Like any predator she groomed me first to build up my trust. I paid her $$. How stupid of me. She also made jewelry out of natural crystals & stones.
    It helps to vent about this. I saw this email as I was going to sleep.
    Thank you
    Denise

    On Sun, Jul 15, 2018, 7:31 AM Pamela Miles wrote:
    Cece, would you be willing to post this as a comment on the blog? If so, here’s the link https://reikiinmedicine.org/clinical-practice/reiki-abuse-metooreiki/ Scroll past the article to the comment section.

    All best,
    Pamela
    Bringing self care back to health care

    Pamela Miles
    What the Heck Happened to My Body During Reiki?

    On Jul 15, 2018, at 2:05 AM, Cece Denise wrote:

    I was subjected to Reiki sexual abuse over the phone a few years ago. PTSD. It shook my distrust in Reiki. She was on FB. I don’t remember her name. It was so creepy & intrusive. Like any predator she groomed me first to build up my trust. I paid her $$. How stupid of me. She also made jewelry out of natural crystals & stones.
    It helps to vent about this. I saw this email as I was going to sleep.
    Thank you

    On Sun, Jul 15, 2018, 12:01 AM Pamela Miles wrote:
    Awakening to Reiki Abuse: #MeTooReiki
    Ignoring Reiki abuse doesn’t make it go away. We need to become an empowered community. Here’s a start.
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    Bringing self care back to health care

    Pamela Miles
    ReikiInMedicine.org
    PamelaMiles.com

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  5. You always bring practicality, wisdom, and knowledge in all you do to help others understand Reiki. I truly understood the importance of self-Reiki because of you and for that, I am ever grateful.

    Self-practice is what you encourage most of us to do and you also encourage to find a teacher who practices Self-Reiki.

    Unfortunately, abusers will show up in any practice, industry, etc. Thank you for bringing light and sharing how to spot them.

  6. Tanisia Greer

    Thank you for this article. Calling attention to abuse of power in any relationship and profession is important. Spiritual abuse is rampant, and the Reiki community is not exempt from people who abuse and manipulate under the guise of “healing.”

    I do, however, share concerns about the title seemingly putting the weight of abuse on “Reiki” itself. Your stated intention was to be provocative and to start a conversation. However, when I’ve done web searches for Reiki, I’ve also come across sites (usually conservative/Fundamentalist Christian sites) “warning” others about the “evils” of Reiki, and of other people alleging they were attacked by practitioner with “demonic reiki energy.”

    I wouldn’t want this article to get lumped into those erroneous searches, but when I first saw the headline, that’s exactly what came to mind.

    I feel It’s important to stress that the spotlight is on abusers and unbalanced people who hurt vulnerable people under the guise of Reiki treatment, rather than using the term “Reiki Abuse.” I personally didn’t see that direction in the article until the second paragraph or so.

    Other than that critique, this was a strong article and warning to watch out for bad actos in the healing community, and especially the Reiki practitioner community. I’m happy and proud of the training I received as a Reiki master from the International Center For Reiki Training. They have a strong code of ethics that I follow. Of course, a voluntary code of ethics is no guarantee of professionalism or ability of the individual, but for me it helps to research and ask about a practitioners background to make sure of the person they’re entrusting their spiritual & sometimes holistic healing well-being to.

    Blessings, and again, thank you for this article spotlight.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Tanisia.

      When I wrote the title, I was thinking along the lines of abuse of Reiki practice. For example, when we say “child abuse,” we don’t put the weight on child; it’s understood that children are the victims.

      I see people and the practice itself as being the victims in this situation.

      For example, Reiki practice is illegal in South Salt Lake. A pornography ring was hiding behind the term Reiki and to protect themselves, the town passed legislation banning Reiki practice.

      It’s a complex situation with many facets. My goal was to start a respectful conversation. Mostly, it seems that’s what’s happening, and for that I am grateful.

      1. Pamela, could you please provide your source for the law against Reiki in South Salt Lake? That’s where I live and I’ve never heard of this law. The last I heard about it, SSL and other cities had temporarily suspended providing new licenses to Reiki practitioners until they figured out how to revise the codes to be able to regulate sexually oriented businesses without impairing the ability of Reiki practitioners to do their work. They did not revoke current licenses during this time. This is very different from making the practice of Reiki illegal. Thank you.

      2. Yes, Tracy, you are correct, I used imprecise language. I apologize.

        While the end result is the same, i.e. people not being able to practice professionally to the letter of the law, not being able to get a business license is technically different than the practice being illegal.

        Reiki as a spiritual healing art is not regulated by Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

  7. I have to disagree with you. You site an example of abuse, it’s not reiki and is certainly not “reiki abuse.” I can appreciate how writing a provocative and overly sensational article is great for your readership, but in my mind it does nothing but damage your reputation as a reputable writer and does tremendous damage to Reiki in general.

    1. I’ll happily risk my “reputation as a reputable writer” if it means starting a conversation about something our community needs to address. I waited to see if anyone else would get the ball rolling but to my knowledge no one stepped forward, so I finally decided to.

      You’re right, Mike, the article is “provocative.” I wrote it to provoke constructive dialogue.

      I am at a loss as to why you would characterize this as an “overly sensational article. I deliberately withheld details to avoid sensationalism and because the stories that have been shared with me are not mine to tell.

  8. I believe that reiki found me when I needed it. I found a reiki teacher to “attune me” online. He did seem to have a spiritual gift but my one on one class felt like he was flying by the seat of his pants and he kept telling me “just make sure to read this later…”

    When I left I did feel good energetically, but I had more questions than I did when I got there, that I couldn’t wrap my head around- like reiki was this nebulous thing.

    He told me how his reiki master turned his back on him and how that’s against the reiki code, he said that he would always be accessible to me and supportive- there to guide me and answer questions.

    We developed a bit of a friendship and hung out a bit. He then messaged me and accused me of being jealous of his gifting and told me to “let go” of the relationship. This was completely out of the blue and had no merit in reality at all. He said that he’d been hearing things in the spiritual world that informed this. I reminded him that he was my reiki master and made a commitment to me and was breaking reiki code, but at that point because of his erratic and confrontational behavior I wanted him gone anyway.

    This whole situation made me really sad and feel that maybe reiki wasn’t this magical, beautiful thing that found me after all. Maybe it wasn’t for me. And maybe he didn’t really teach me. That conflict created some bad vibes around the whole reiki topic in my mind and heart, so I put it down. Stopped reading and stopped self practice.

    Later I discovered that I was basically one of his first clients and he was trying to get off the ground but threw in the towel. Apparently I provided a lesson for him that he wasn’t really equipped, but I’m sad about what it costed me.

    I’m aware that this isn’t as extreme as sexual abuse tied to reiki, I’m just sharing my experience. How someone who isn’t stable enough to take on the mantle of reiki master can basically ruin something so beautiful for someone else, and that’s a sad thing.

  9. Sonia Estago-Cers

    Thankyou for sharing this article Pamela, it is a valuable topic for discussion.

    Similar to Marlene’s comment, I am a member of Reiki Australia and there are particular guidelines in place to reassure clients seeking Reiki treatment by a Member, that they are being treated by professionally and morally sound Practitioners. It is encouraged that all Reiki Treatment Practitioners practicing in Australia use the ‘National Code of Conduct for Healthcare Workers’ which provides a minimum set of standards of conduct and practice for unregistered Healthcare workers that align with other Healthcare Professionals.
    Reiki Australia also offers ‘Professional Development for Reiki Treatment’ which includes ‘Codes of Ethics’ and ‘Codes of Conduct’ which covers all manner of moral and legal boundaries expected in Reiki Practice.
    In order to reduce the risk of illegal or immoral treatment, I would encourage anyone seeking Reiki treatment to at least utilize an Accredited Reiki Treatment Practitioner who is a Member of one of these Organizations that canvas these types of issues.

    I do agree, although we are moving slowly towards integrating Reiki as a widely accepted Healthcare service, Government bodies still have a way to go to provide a vehicle for enforcing and monitoring the constant morphing and expanse of Reiki teaching and practice today. Blessings, Sonia.

  10. HELLO PAMELA,

    I FIND RAISING THE ISSUE OF ABUSE OF THEIR CLIENTS AND STUDENTS BY REIKI PRACTITIONERS IS IMPORTANT AND MERITS DISCUSSION.

    CALLING IT “REIKI ABUSE” CONSTITUTES AN ABUSING USE OF THE WORK REIKI IN THIS CONTEXT. REIKI HAS NOT ABUSED ANYTHING NOR ANYONE. ITS PRACTITIONERS MAY HAVE THOUGH.

    I WOULD PREFER THAT SUCH MALPRACTICE BE CALLED “CLIENT AND STUDENT ABUSE BY REIKI PRACTITIONERS.”

    BY USING PROPER TERMINOLOGY RESPONSIBILITY WILL BE PLACED WHERE IT RESTS: WITH WHO ABUSES!

  11. Thank you, Pamela, for writing so thoughtfully about how personally responsible we are for all of our actions, including those that come about through the practice and teaching and receiving of Reiki. You are the person who long ago helped me to understand the importance of self-Reiki through one of your articles. I hope that this one inspires many more people to give themselves this gift of Reiki every day.

    1. Rosie, it always feels good to know that my work has inspired someone to daily self practice. Thank you for letting me know.

  12. La'Quivia Hand

    Can reiki abuse be prevented? Can energetic abuse be prevented? Even though I get that I may protect my pyche I’m still vaurable to other energy fields.

    1. The article is about abusive behavior. Yes, people can be made aware that their behavior is hurtful and won’t be tolerated.

      And yes, people can be made more aware of what abuse looks like so that they are less vulnerable to being exploited.

  13. Jeffrey Hotchkiss

    This is such an important part of developing a Reiki practice, and so often neglected. Thank you for broaching the subject publicly.

    People who come to us for treatment or teaching, place themselves in very vulnerable positions. That gives us a responsibility to learn: what are the elements of ethical Reiki practice, and how do I avoid doing harm? Unwitting harm can be just as damaging as the intentional kind.

    Ethical codes of counselors, social workers and licensed medical professionals can give us clues about risk factors. I have relied on my teacher and on counseling supervision, to guide my ethics of practice. There are some good books on the topic as well – I found The Ethics of Caring, by Kylea Taylor, to be most helpful.

    We don’t know what we don’t know, and “Reiki does no harm” is not a panacea. There is always more to learn.

  14. Grest article. Thank you! I am a member of the Canadian Reiki Assocation. Just for general knowledge. The CRA has strict guidelines and policies regarding Reiki practises. To become a member the practitioner/teacher, must supply all supporting documents which include case studies, certificates and your Reiki Master/ teachers credentials, submitted to and approved by the CRA. The CRA also provides an avenue for clients or anyone to lodge a complaint of abuse or other unethical practises imposed by any Reiki practitioner/master. The CRA provides listings of legitimate practioners etc. Bottom line, the CRA enforces a degree of validation and accountability for Practitioners, and protection for Clients!

    1. Thank you for sharing the work of the CRA, Marlene.

      While I appreciate the efforts of the CRA (and other organizations), the word “enforces” is perhaps too strong. It would seem that the strongest action an organization can take is to rescind membership. The practitioner would remain free to practice.

      The safeguards provided by the CRA and other organizations are nonetheless valuable.

      However, we as a community have a lot of work to do to educate the public about the diversity that exists in the Reiki community not only in terms of practice styles but also professional preparedness so they understand the need to choose carefully.

      1. Thank you Pamela for your invaluable input! You do amazing work which embodies wisdom and great compassion!

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